Cutting off coal a terrible policy

Coal is our most abundant and economical resource for producing electricity, and methods have been created to burn it much more cleanly. But President Barack Obama’s anti-fossil fuel fixation threatens to not only raise energy costs, but also do major damage to the coal industry and our economy.

As Mark Perry pointed out recently in Investor’s Business Daily, the Supreme Court issued a stay in the launching of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which was devised to meet the arbitrary goal of reducing domestic carbon emissions 32 percent by 2030, from 2005 levels. Twenty-seven states rightly argued that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to issue such a sweeping mandate to reshape the nation’s electric industry, and SCOTUS agreed.

While the court’s ruling is an important (albeit temporary) victory for consumers and states, the Clean Power Plan is only a portion of President Obama’s environmental vision. The Department of the Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, as well as the current moratorium on coal leases, serve as additional dubious means of keeping coal in the ground.

Despite the fact that successful measures have already been taken to protect streams, the new Stream Protection Rule adds to and tweaks 475 existing regulations, moving regulatory authority away from the states and into the hands of the Department of the Interior. As Mr. Perry points out, the job losses from such a needless rule could be “horrific.”

“More than 30,000 coal miners have already lost their jobs since 2011,” he writes. “Should the Stream Protection Rule become law, another 40,000 mining jobs will vanish. The total could be 280,000 jobs lost when indirect employment is included.”

And the rule doesn’t just threaten jobs, Mr. Perry notes. The cost of complying would cause roughly two-thirds of our coal reserves — a considerable, convenient and affordable source of electricity — to become economically untenable.

The current natural gas boom, as well as pressure from activists and elected officials to convince communities across the nation to shutter coal-fired power plants, has caused the coal industry to struggle. Not helping matters is the flawed Stream Protection Rule, as well as other efforts by the environmental lobby — including pushing for (and successfully blocking) proposed coal export terminals — which are keeping the U.S. from exporting coal to Asian markets, and further holding back an industry that would otherwise prove to be a huge boon to the U.S. economy.

Instead of catering to President Obama’s whims to cut states out and make it more costly to mine American coal, Congress needs to get more deeply involved in eliminating bureaucratic mandates that take the force of law, without ever facing debate or a vote. Dismantling the Stream Protection Rule is a good place to start.

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